His wife still sang to him. He could hear her outside, circling distantly in the woods around what used to be their home. The sound was faint still. He felt the tug of her voice, but he still had time to fill his ears with beeswax before he was truly lost. Tonight wasn’t the night to give in, he told himself.
When they were young newlyweds, her voice was one of his favorite things about her. Not only was it high and sweet but she sang constantly as they went about their work. The sound lit up their dim cabin brighter than a lantern and the man would often close his eyes and just listen for moments, absorbed and enraptured by the beautiful music.
Maybe that was what had drawn the creature.
The man had grown up with the legend of sirens- creatures who would beguile and entrance children away into the darkest part of the woods with their songs. He had naturally assumed that this tale, like many a tale of woodland horrors, was designed to warn children away from wandering into the deep dark woods by themselves. It had been a long time since the man was a boy and he no longer believed in fairy stories.
That is until he started to hear the singing in the dead of the night, far away from the cabin. Quiet but haunting. Compelling. The man found himself straining to hear more even from his warm bed with his wife by his side. Often,when the music stirred him awake, she would already be up, awakened by the same melody. They would make sleep-dazed but frenzied plans to go into the woods and investigate only to regain rationality as consciousness seeped in. They waited until daylight and walked out to investigate, staying closely together. As they walked through the woods they found several dead birds on the path. Then one day a deer. Then one day a horse.
Then the blood-stained clothing of a child.
The man went into town to speak to a village elder. He told the same story the man had heard as a boy- one of a hero lured and captivated by a siren’s voice. She was unable to enter his home, but when she sang of his greatest desires she enticed him out of his safe haven. At a distance, the desire to leave and follow the siren was a compulsion, but as the song grew closer it worked more and more on the hero, cajoling and coercing until he could do nothing but find and offer himself up to her. The elder explained the tradition of putting beeswax in one’s ears to resist a siren’s voice and her compulsions. He gave the man some to take home to his wife.
The man and his wife started putting the wax in their ears before they slept. On certain nights, though, he would find himself woken up in a frenzy, barely able to restrain himself from running out into the woods. One time he had even put on shoes before noticing the wax had fallen from his ear. With the last of his sanity, he was able to save himself by quickly jamming the wax back in.
Right before this, though, he noticed the voice had been joined by the song of a child, enticing and sweet.
His wife had heard it too. She began to refer to it as the voice of their son, the child they had never been able to conceive. Even over the distance, she could hear that he was singing to her. In the evenings, she would hum in harmony.
It became harder and harder to convince her to plug her ears at the start of the voices. She became obsessed with them. She no longer showed interest in food or household tasks or even companionate talk. Her face became tired and drawn. The only time the man would hear anything from her many days was when she hummed along softly with the song from the woods.
Life went on like this day after tense day.
Until finally, the man woke up in the morning to an empty bed and a hastily scrawled note. His wife’s wax ear plugs were lying on top of it.
She was gone.
He and some nearby townspeople searched for her for days but there were no remains to be found.
Beaten, the man went back to his cottage.
On the third night after the conclusion of the search, the man began to hear her voice from the woods. Her song was mournful and sad.
She was lonely without him.
She knew where he was.
Every night the voice came closer. Every night the song started a little earlier, echoed a little louder.
The man had been quick about putting his wax in almost as soon as the voices started. His grief was so deep, though, that he couldn’t quite resist listening for a few moments just to hear her sweet voice again.
As the voices got closer, he began to test himself with how long he could listen and resist the compulsion to join her. He daydreamed of going out into the dark woods and be with his love, even if in the form she was in now. He missed her so much.
He knew that one of these nights that he would give in.
He could hear her gently whispering this truth into his mind through her song.
Soon, he would grow tired and lonely. He would just want to hear her voice clearly one last time. His struggles would be exhausted and he would come to her the way he had on their wedding day, so long ago now. And she would see him and smile and sing him to sleep.